Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony shows how hard it really is to perform certain civic duties

Professor Christine Blasey Ford.
Professor Christine Blasey Ford.
Image: Reuters/Jim Bourg
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Christine Blasey Ford is testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee today as part of US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s extended confirmation hearings. In the process, the professor is teaching us just how hard it can be to do the right thing.

Blasey Ford has repeatedly said that she wanted to tell her story before Kavanaugh became Trump’s nominee for the high court. She felt it was her civic duty to let the White House and congresspeople know that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school in 1982. Blasey Ford explained that her concerns weren’t political; she simply assumed there were other, more qualified people on Trump’s list. When asked if her disclosure was partisan, Blasey Ford strongly asserted, “I am no one’s pawn.”

However, her sense of civic duty was thwarted by practical realities. Blasey Ford said that she sought the advice of friends and acquaintances—people who weren’t experts—on how to disclose the information. All had suggestions. People advised she get a lawyer, and they suggested she contact the Washington Post and New York Times, but no one told her how she might reach the appropriate government representatives.

“I was panicking because I knew the timeline was short for the decision,” she testified. “People were giving me advice on the beach, people who didn’t know the processes.” On July 6, as her sense of urgency about Trump’s imminent pick was heightened, Blasey Ford called the office of her congressperson, Anna Eshoo, and contacted the Washington Post anonymously.

When asked why she didn’t also contact the New York Times, as some had advised, the professor replied that she didn’t want to go “the media route” and preferred to speak to a congressperson, so reaching out to one publication seemed sufficient. Questioned on whether she tried to reach the White House before she contacted her congressperson , she replied, “I did not. I did not know how to do that.”

Blasey Ford spoke to a receptionist in Eshoo’s office about her experience with Kavanaugh and concerns about the prospective Supreme Court nominee on July 6. On July 9, the day Kavanaugh was named Trump’s pick, Eshoo’s office contacted Blasey Ford. She spoke to staff about her allegations on July 18 and to Eshoo shortly thereafter. Then, Eshoo advised Blasey Ford to write a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Feinstein received on July 30.

Because Kavanaugh’s confirmation was widely lauded by Republicans, and because people spoke as if he’d certainly be confirmed, Blasey Ford said that she felt that exposing her experience publicly would be like “getting in front of a moving train.” She asked for anonymity and Feinstein respected the request.

She also hired a lawyer, although not right away. “I didn’t understand why I would need lawyers,” Blasey Ford told senators today on several occasions.

When reporters earlier this month discovered the existence of the letter to Feinstein, they started camping on Blasey Ford’s lawn, talking to her dog through the windows of her house, attending her classes, and reaching out to her colleagues. She relented. Blasey Ford said she knew she would not be able to remain anonymous and decided that if her story would be told, she would be the one to tell it.

Now, countless people have heard her testimony. Within it is a lesson on just how taxing it can be to perform certain crucial civic duties.